CPS to strengthen support to victims of Female Genital Mutilation

07/09/2011

'The justification for the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is often cited as a tradition, an initiation into adulthood or a religious practice. It is in fact, a serious crime which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment,' says Manjula Nayee, Senior Policy Advisor at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The Crown Prosecution Service has today issued new guidance that sets out the legal elements of FGM and the challenges prosecutors may face in bringing a case to court, particularly when a victim may retract her evidence due to social and cultural pressures.

Ms Nayee said: 'We are working, as part of our commitment to the cross-Government action plan, to end Violence against Women, to reassure communities that if those affected by FGM come forward, we can help.'

The practice, often known as female circumcision, is estimated to affect up to 140 million girls and women worldwide with over 80,000 who could be at risk in England and Wales.

Ms Nayee continued: 'This guidance gives prosecutors a better understanding of the cultural background surrounding the illegal practice, which has been carried out for many years.'

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 makes it clear that if any British Citizen or UK resident involved in arranging or carrying out this crime abroad will be liable for prosecution.

Ms Nayee said: 'Our aim is to bring strong cases to court, with prosecutors working closely with the police to investigate where appropriate whether victims have been taken abroad.

'Prosecutors should also consider  evidence from social services, schools or Local Authorities, who may have crucial information to help build up a case.

'Some defendants may claim they have carried out this crime for medical reasons. Prosecutors will look for expert advice from medical professionals on this issue.'

Sue Inwood, Detective Chief Inspector in the Continuous Improvement Team in the Metropolitan Police Service, said: 

'Project Azure, the Metropolitan Polices response to FGM, welcomes these new guidelines which will serve to heighten awareness amongst prosecutors of this practice and also to clarify best practice in this challenging area of investigation.'

Ms Nayee concluded: 'The Crown Prosecution Service hopes that publication of this guidance will both raise awareness of this serious crime and help prosecutors bring perpetrators to justice.'